Friday, January 9, 2015

Elizabeth Costello & Brooklyn

In the interest of catching up on reviewing books, here's a two pack.  These have nothing in common, really, except I read them back to back.

First, Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee.  This is not structured like a novel, more like a set of essays framed as a series of talks given by an aging author in various places around the world.  Then, she dies and is required to put her beliefs in action in the afterlife, such as they are and such as it is.


I did some research into the book, to help me make sense of it.  I'll be the first to admit, what Coetzee's getting at, what he's approaching, is pretty sophisticated philosophy and it's is over my head.  Didn't mean that I didn't appreciate the book, but I'm sure I didn't take as much away from it as is there.  There are also some deeply unsettling topics covered here.

Next, I read Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.  I'm getting introduced to some fine Irish writers this year.  Toibin has an extraordinarily straightforward and uncomplicated writing style, at least in this book.

Eilis is the main character of Brooklyn.  The plot has a very even keel.  Eilis faces trials and travails, no doubt, but usually makes the right decision (or is pushed toward the right decision, but that's another issue) and moves forward.  No one takes advantage of her, despite the tremendous opportunities.  She meets a man and falls in love and he has no major faults.

The end disappointed me, though.  Eilis is already quite the passive character.  (She frickin' emigrates to America because her sister and mother decide that someone has to go, and it should be Eilis.)  She secretly marries her boyfriend in Brooklyn, at his insistence, before returning to Ireland for her sister's funeral.  While there, she develops a serious relationship with an old acquaintance and appears to come out of her dream only when one of the local gossips hears from Eilis's Brooklyn landlord.

It would have been much better, to me, if Eilis had decided to return to America on her own, without being tattled on.

Final call:

For both books.  Elizabeth Costello probably deserves a half a star extra, and Brooklyn a half a star less, but what's one to do with only whole-star graphics :)

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